20 Common Things to Include in a Budget

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If you’re making a budget, congrats! For many people, having more money seriously adds to their freedom — and budgeting is a great way of giving yourself as much financial freedom as possible in the future, as well as improving your financial situation in the present.

You’ve probably practiced budgeting for groceries, rent and other housing costs using budgeting formulas, such as the 50/20/30 budgeting rule, which splits your finances into three main categories:

  • Essentials: 50% of your income
  • Savings: 20% of your income
  • Wants: 30% of your income

50/30/20 Budget Calculator
Here’s how much you have for:
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However, if you’re using a more nuanced formula, as you might with this online budget calculator, there are plenty of other small budget items that are all-too-easy to forget about.

Here are 20 common things to include in a budget:

Some of these 20 budget items might not apply to you, but they are all things that are frequently overlooked by those who are budgeting.

1. Rent

The first and biggest fixed expense to consider is your rent or mortgage payment. It’s such a big item, it might even be easy to forget! But be sure that you are allocating a portion of your monthly income to paying rent and other associated living expenses, like water, electricity, and heating or air conditioning. 

2. Food and Groceries

Food can be a pretty big expense if you don’t budget wisely. If you’ve moved out and have a new job, you might get carried away going to new restaurants and ordering appetizers, dinner, and drinks on a regular basis. Don’t fall into this temptation; instead, add food costs to your budget, and set aside a fixed amount for eating out. The majority of your budget should be put toward groceries, which will save you money long-term.

3. Daily Incidentals

It might not seem like you’re spending a lot of money on your daily latte from your favorite cafe, or a drink after work. But these costs can add up substantially over the course of a year. You should try and total these costs and include them in your budget.

4. Irregular Expenses and Emergency Fund

It’s difficult to budget for one-off expenses because you won’t know about them in advance, but you should always have some money set aside for them. If you learn about an impending expense (like a wedding) you won’t be caught off guard. Irregular expenses can sometimes shred your monthly budget, so try and set aside money for them even if it’s only a one-time thing.

5. Household Maintenance

Household maintenance is an inevitable living expense. If you hire cleaners to clean your apartment once a month, or take your car to the carwash, be sure to include these costs in your budget. Household cleaners, repairs or replacement for damaged appliances, and furniture cleaning can all be expensive as well, and you should remember to budget for these.

6. Work Wardrobe and Upkeep

Does your workplace require that you wear a suit and nice shoes? Then budget for the cost of replacement items as they wear out and also budget for the cost of dry cleaning and shoe repair. A solid work wardrobe may essential if you’re going to continue making a good income.

7. Subscriptions & Data

Subscriptions to music services, streaming services, and online publications are frequently overlooked in household budgets, so be sure to include them if you have them. Remember that you should also budget your phone and data usage to make sure your plan isn’t too expensive for your means.

8. Guests

Do you have family or friends that visit you each summer or for the holidays? If so, then you’re probably going to spend extra money on groceries, laundry, and transportation when they visit, not to mention your “showing friends around town” expenses. The best way to account for this budget item is to put a small amount of money away each month, even during the months where you’re not going to have any visitors.

9. Travel Expenses

The opposite of the last item, you’ll want to budget your trip whenever you travel out of town to visit family or friends. How much you choose to budget for depends on how you’ll be traveling, where, and how far. Figure out where you’ll be traveling and determine what the gasoline/train/flight costs will be, and also be sure to budget for lodgings and food.

Vacationing is a whole different story. Typically, long vacations require their own distinct budget because there are so many costs associated with longer trips.

10. Memberships

You might have to pay monthly fees if you’re a member of a gym or yoga studio. Definitely include these budget items in your budget. If you’re a gym member, be sure you keep track of how often you actually go to the gym. It’s so easy to sign up for a monthly gym membership and wind up not going for a long period of time. Memberships can be pretty expensive, so make sure you make a habit out of going so it’ll be worth the expense (plus, your body will thank you for it).

11. Prescriptions and Medicine

It’s difficult to predict prescription costs because you never know when an illness is going to strike, but you should include over-the-counter medications on your budget. Common budget items medicines include Tylenol, Advil, Tums, and Claritin.

12. Pet Care

Our furry friends bring so much joy to our lives, but they can also take quite a bit out of our budget. Be sure to plan for veterinary costs, like vaccinations and checkups, as well as monthly costs like grooming and pet food.

13. Bank Account Fees

Banks occasionally charge fees for their services, including low balances, transfers, account maintenance, and overdrafts. Include these costs in your budget. You can use these budget items to determine where your finances are going awry every month.

You might also consider switching from a corporate bank to a credit union. Credit unions usually have much lower rates and fees than large banks.

14. Parking

Parking is another expense that’s easy to forget about, but it can add up in huge increments over time. If you’re commuting to work in an urban area, chances are you’re going to have to pay for parking now and then, or perhaps you’ve signed up for a monthly parking plan at your job or at a parking structure. Include these expenses in your budget, and leave additional room for when you’re going to pay for parking when you visit an amusement park or when you’re traveling.

15. Car Registration

Most people budget for gasoline costs, but people often forget to budget for car registration costs. In some states, like California, car registration can be fairly expensive, so you’ll want to account for it in your budget so you won’t be surprised when you get that notice in the mail that your current registration is about to expire.

16. Entertainment

Who says that you can’t budget for fun things, too? You should budget for any and all expenses that pertain to “having fun,” whether that’s going out clubbing, going to the movies, or attending concerts.

It’s difficult to budget for entertainment because you might never know when you’re going to be doing something fun (some people prefer to be very spontaneous with their entertainment activities). When you’ve itemized all your living spaces, determine how much money you have left over and set aside a decent portion of it for entertainment purposes. Even if you don’t use your entire entertainment budget each month, you’ll be able to put the extra cash away in savings or roll it over to the next month.

Don’t be afraid to give yourself more than a few bucks for entertainment! Saving money is no fun if you’re always stuck at home. And always remember that the more you cut back in other areas, the more you’ll be able to allocate to your entertainment budget.

17. Birthdays

Budget for birthdays! Even if you prefer your birthday to be low-key, you might want to dish out some money on a cake or a nice bottle of wine, and you should always keep some money in the budget for friends’ birthdays. If you have children, you’ll definitely want to budget to throw birthday parties. (You can use any leftover for savings, or  create a back to school budget!)

18. Holiday Gifts

The holidays can be taxing because of the huge financial strain that gift-giving has. But you can make the holidays a whole lot easier on yourself and your finances if you practice holiday season budgeting. Estimate how much you typically spend on gifts around the holidays, and then divide by 12: that’s how much money you’ll want to put away each month.

Here’s a pro tip for you: oftentimes, memories are far more worth the expense than a gift is. If you don’t have young children, you might consider taking your family on a short vacation rather than spending an exorbitant amount of money on gifts. You could spend a huge deal less, you’ll cut down on all the time you spend holiday shopping, and you’ll create memories with your family that are far more valuable than material goods.

19. Charitable Contributions

A donation to a favorite charity is a worthy expense, and it’s an item that you should definitely include when you’re planning out your budget if you’re altruistically inclined. Make a list of your favorite charitable or religious organizations you may want to donate to on a monthly or annual basis. You might also want to leave room for “unexpected charitable causes,” such as fundraisers for injury-stricken people.

20. Labor Union Dues

You might not pay much attention to this budget item if your dues come out of your wages, but if they don’t, you’ll definitely need to include them on your budget. You can either include them as an additional expense, or you can generally subtract them from your income. 

Whether you include all of these items in your budget or only a few of them, you’re bound to ease your money stress and improve your finances when you begin budgeting and tracking your spending.